Story+ Project

Mapping Roots with Migrant Roots Media


Story+ 2021 | Mapping Roots with Migrant Roots Media

Migrant Roots Media (MRM) is a digital platform which amplifies the voices of migrants, children of migrants, and those struggling to thrive in their homelands to unearth the root causes of global migration. We strategically position intersectional voices to advance narratives and political analyses concerning migration and other social issues. Through investigative and first-person articles, media workshops, and campus collaborations, we work to reframe discourses around migration and human mobility.   Our project will involve working with students, preferably migrants or children of migrants,  to conduct research on the different social, political, economic, and/or environmental forces that destabilize communities and produce forced migration. Students will choose a country to investigate, and it is highly encouraged that the student make their decision based on a personal connection to this country (for example, it could be their own or their parents’ country of origin). Inspired by decolonizing scholars like Linda Tuhiwai Smith, we ask that students consider their personal and ancestral connections as a corrective to an extractive and exploitative history of “objective” and “detached” research that facilitates colonization and imperialism. Each student will create a timeline of historical events for their chosen country which will be published in our website, write a narrative that highlights the main topics they encounter and which may include a personal story-telling component, and create a visual that will be presented to an audience in a digital gallery-style format. This project will employ (auto)ethnographic approaches, oral history methods, and archival research. Keeping in mind Story+ emphasis on intertwining systems of oppression, our students’ research will consider how Indigeneity, race, gender, class, sexuality, and physical ability shape a community’s lived experience and factors into migratory journeys. An intersectional analysis is key to our goals and will be central to students’ Story+ projects.  

Preference will be given to students who are migrants or children of migrants. There are no essential skills required, but a strong willingness to learn, communicate openly, share opinions, be responsive, and collaborate with others is desired.

Project Sponsor(s): 

Roxana Bendezú, Founder and Director, Migrant Roots Media

Bárbara Sostaita, Higher Education Director, Migrant Roots Media

Graduate Mentor(s): 

Dubie Toa-Kwapong, PhD student, Cultural Anthropology


Cat Xia, Shreya Joshi, Juanita Vargas


Migrant Roots Media Team, Story+ 2021. Pictured: Barbara Sostaita, Cat Xia, Shreya Joshi, Juanita Vargas, Dubie Toa-Kwapong.

The Mapping Roots team is a partnership between Story+ and Migrant Roots Media (MRM), a digital platform founded by Durham-based activist Roxana Bendezú. With its mission to unearth the root causes of migration, MRM strives to amplify the voices of migrants, children of migrants, and those struggling to stay and thrive in their homelands. Through MRM’s collaboration with Story+, student researchers are encouraged to select a country and conduct in-depth research on the complex matrix of push and pull factors that compel some citizens to leave and build lives elsewhere. Drawing on the methodological interventions of Chicana scholar Gloria E. Anzaldúa, the program is designed as autohistoria‐teoría, an approach that sees the personal and political as entwined and inextricable from one another. Students are encouraged to select their research site based on a personal connection, for example, their parents’ homeland(s). The Mapping Roots project was led by Dr Barbara Sostaita, Higher Education Director for MRM.

As migrants and children of migrants - with strong bonds to those whose existence in their homelands is indelibly shaped by global migration - the Mapping Roots team worked together and apart over six weeks to identify the root causes of migration from our homelands to the West. We worked to map the interconnections between the geopolitical, socio-economic, cultural, environmental, and personal. Our weekly meetings were shaped by a rich blend of foundational theoretical readings on migration, hybridity, and challenging normative ideas around border politics and citizenship. Workshops on conducting ethnographic research as a community member, poetry, archival research practice, and oral history equipped our team members with interdisciplinary and multimodal research skills.

The Mapping Roots researchers respectively explored root causes of migration from China over the past 60 years, internal displacement and forced migration in Colombia, and voluntary migration from India with a focus on gender. Each student mapped a timeline of historical and political events for their chosen country, observing the relation between (trans)national happenings with their family migration stories. Based on their findings, each researcher built a website that brought together the scholarly, narrative-poetic, visual art-based works they produced throughout the program and may continue to work in the future. The team created an audio-visual work of poetry for the Story+ 2021 Research Symposium, which draws on the overlapping themes that emerged throughout our research process.

Links to student researcher's websites:


  • Migration
  • Documentary
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Mapping
  • Human Rights